Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"With a rebel yell- "more, more, more"

Today was day two of the 2008 Alabama MS150, and we had more miles, more hills, more heat, and more wind than we did yesterday. Other than that, it was easy peaszy. There were no emergency runs for misplaced items, and I woke up on time, so the day started better than yesterday. Breakfast was served at the check in tent. Pancakes the size of a 9" skillet, still liquid in the center, OJ, and doughnuts. As many caffeine addicts noted, there was no coffee. The quicker cyclists in the bunch did early morning sprints to Starbucks and came back in time for the ride. I had some AWFUL cup-at-a-time stuff at the hotel lobby, and called it good. As I expected, I only saw Darren and Chad at the start. I did snap a picture of the Floyd Landis autograph on Darren's bike:

I couldn't find my riding companion from yesterday, Camille, so I rode solo a while until I saw that Luther and his pal were riding at a perfect pace for me. Both wore yellow "Top Banana" numbers, meaning they were very successful in fund raising last year. My number was white this year, but has been yellow before, and may be again as well. Luther pulled in at the 1st rest stop 11 miles out, and there we parted company. As I did yesterday, my plan was to pass that one (we also passed the final one on the course, only 6 miles from the end). I rode by myself again for a while and then saw a familiar figure and even more familiar yellow tires ahead. It was Camille. The two of us then ran into Lin and Aaron (who Camille knew) and the 4 of us pretty much took turns pulling all day. It worked out well. The ride today was prettier than yesterday, and would have been more enjoyable, had I not started out with tired legs from yesterday.

The rest stops were well placed and the volunteers were generally very freindly. Here is a picture of Fullylugged and Camille at the "Disco Divas" stop. They had a boom box going and provided a meal and show to each new batch of arriving riders. Y-M-C-A, Saturday Night Fever, and other hits were danced to. I am in wool shorts, and there is a wool Tee shirt under the Copaxone jersey. My dear friend in IL, Rhonda, sent it to me for this ride. She has far more experience with the effects of MS than she would prefer, and Copaxone is a treatment used for MS. Camille is wearing a top banana jersey from last year. I have so many jerseys hanging in the closet that I declined one for this year's ride. They are the nicest looking so far though. I did get a tee shirt and a hat for having ridden several times over the years.

Most of the rest stops had various themes. The number of riders was less and less as we progressed. For one thing, many riders opted for the shorter route today, and many were faster than we were. We were not the last ones in though and were well ahead of the time deadline. Some of the stops even provided a security detail to watch our bikes while we were away from them. This fellow was actually a little too friendly to be much use as a guard dog. The crowd he attracted did the job just fine though. At several stops I got a lot of questions about my bike. Those who know me are aware that I'm usually tight lipped about anything bike related, but it can pried out from me after a while. Okay, actually I'll plaster you with bike talk until you cry "uncle."

So, we ended the day with 79.4 miles and about 5 1/2 hours of pedal time. My seat is a bit sore and I got too much sun, but not seriously too much. I'll be sending out a thank you to all my supporters, but if you were one of them, THANK YOU. If you weren't and you want to be, my donations web page is open for 30 more days.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

2008 MS 150 Day 1

Despite the flurry of last minute come-ups at the office, I did leave after lunch and packed my gear, got in the car, and drove the 3 1/4 hours to Gulf Shores. I haven't seen a love bug since moving away from FL in 1997, but my windshield was plastered solid with them on this trip, beginning just as I left Montgomery County. Forgotten too was how they make vision impossible when driving into the sun in late afternoon. I found the hotel okay and after checking in for the MS ride and getting my rider packet, I found some dinner in a nearby shopping center. I had baked spaghetti. It was pretty mundane, but the carbs were of the useful variety when a long duration bike ride is in the offing.

Returning to my room, I got out the kit intended to be used and applied the jersey number, got the water bottles filled with Propel, grabbed the socks, helmet liner, shoes. Wait a sec. Shoes? Where ARE they? Back in my closet at home would be the answer. Okay, it's now 7:30 and I have until 9:00 to locate a shoe place. Fortunately, I ride in sandals (old school metal pedals with MTB power grip straps) and these are pretty available anywhere. The Timberlines I just loved were not available in my size, but some Nike ones were. Here they are in a sandal panda. (Click on the pictures to get a larger size)

Phew! I did not relish the prospect of riding in the office shoes. Bikers look goofy to non riders, but we do have our own sense of what is de rigeur. The socks are Amici Veloci (Amechee, Veloshay) which is an online cycling club of charity riders. I have an A-V jersey too, but it fit me once upon a time, but does no longer.

This morning, I was up on time, and grabbed a coffee at the hotel lobby. Then I jumped in the flivver and cruised on over to the MS ride start point. I parked in the wrong place, moved, parked again and got my bike out. Hmm. Water bottles. Where would they be? Back in the hotel room would be the answer. Pack it all back up, go back to the room, get the water bottles, and find a third parking space. There was still time for a snack at the start. If you could find in the dark. Here is a picture of our O'Dark-thirty gathering.

I don't know how many riders there were, but it seemed well attended. There were 2 other Montgomery Club riders that I saw, Darren and Chad. One rides at 25 mph avg for a century, and the other at 17-18. Both are way faster than I ride. I'll see them next tomorrow in the parking lot, I am sure. Darren showed my his newly tricked out Bianchi 928. He was running Token TT wheels today and the bike looked fast just standing still. The thing that really sets it apart for the rest is the autograph from the Solvay Pharmaceutical salesman that Darren got when he was racing this season. (,,22038-2-0,00.htm)
Their sales guy is also a decent bike rider. Chad is on a pretty nifty Cervelo, and I was on the fully lugged steel thing that I usually sit on. No carbon or titanium anywhere. A Brass bell, fat tires, and a duffel bag hanging from a leather saddle. It never disappeared into a crowd at the rest stops.

This year, we began the ride with the beach loop, which is a super change. Calm air in the morning makes the beach so pretty. Later in the day, the winds can easily get very strong, as they did last year. About 6 miles out, I fell in with a gal who rides for the Druid City bunch. We are both on BikeJournal and we had some other riders who we knew in common. Our pace was similar. Camille was quicker in the flats, and I was speedier up climbs. We each ended up pulling about 1/2 the time and had a great time chit chatting about being aging Baby Boomers, and bikes. After the beach loop of about 15 miles, we climbed the tallest hill of the day: the Foley Beach Expressway bridge. A couple of pictures:

Both were taken at the top of the climb. The 2 gals had blown past me like I was standing still earlier, and slowed way down on the climb. Here I am in my full wool kit. Hat, jersey and shorts are all merino. I was super comfy all day, over the temperature range. If I look like I am gasping for air, I am.

The ride itself was very nice. The rest stops are NOT as good as ours in Montgomery, but they were more than adequate and staffed by friendly volunteers. At our lunch stop, an MS patient in a wheelchair thanked me for riding for her. That was what happened on my 1st ride in 2003, and which made this an annual fund raiser that I am glad to do. We passed one rider down on the grassy shoulder of a road. There was a crowd around her and my guess is a moment of paceline inattention. If you tag the rear wheel of the bike in front of you, you will fall most of the time.
We made it back okay, taking just at 5 hours of riding time. The "Wharf," where the ride starts this year, is a nice place, with all sorts of upscale opportunities to lighten your wallet. Plenty of boats to see as well. Here is a shot as we passed by.

Finally, we pulled the last 5 miles or so into a stiffening breeze.
I stopped just outside the finish point to get this last shot of the marina flags. They give some idea of the wind.

Banquet dinner tonight, get a good night's sleep and do a different 75 miles tomorrow!


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Vernally Speaking

I suppose that it's a good thing that the Earth continues in its useful course around our Sun, although the shorter days are not at all to my liking. The absence of 98 degree days is fine however and I find some comfort in that. We cross the equinox now and there is less light each day from now until the Winter Solstice in December. Our weekend club rides start a little later in the mornings, for reasons related to both ambient light and temperatures. I don't mind an extra hour of sleep on Saturday mornings either.

Yesterday, 7 of us left from the Pintala Baptist Church for a 32 mile ramble. It was a lovely morning and the brisk headwind gave us a good cardio workout. I took plenty of turn at the lead, but shared that duty willingly with others. The air had the first crispness to it, and there is color appearing in the maple leaves. It was a great day for a football game, or well, a bike ride.

Today was the relaxer ride at 2:00 PM. I expected maybe 3 people, but 10 showed up! we almost filled the little parking lot. Jim brought his son out for a first group ride. I hate it when a 7th grader makes me look slow... One rider decided to turn around early and shorten the ride up. She was on an upright rail trail bike with plump tires, and the headwind was tiring her out.

Here's a picture I shot of most of the group over my shoulder.
Tom was alongside at the time, politicking heavily for that city council seat he hopes to win in the Oct 7 runoff. So far, he is only pitching a chicken in every pot. I tried to get him to move up to spare bike tires in every garage, but he complained it would take too much money away from the long term grass growth study the city is doing. They're seeing how long they can go without mowing. It costs a lot to watch grass grow, I suppose. At least he doesn't think that he is the change that he has been waiting for.

I was on the Saluki today. I am still trying to decide which bike to bring to the MS 150 next week. I rode the Rambouillet last year. If the weather may get wet, then the fenders on the Saluki will clinch the deal. Other wise I'll probably decide the night before I leave.

In other news, I am really pleased with how a fountain pen repair I did for a Tasmanian penpal came out. Not to bore with an excess of detail, but I got a very old nib from a German brand to write flawlessly in a limited release modern Japanese pen. I kept the original Japanese nib in trade, and will work on it as a project this winter to get it to write well.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not the trainer!! No, not yet!

The hours of daylight are surely on the wane. There is not enough time to change clothes after work and go for a really enjoyable evening ride anymore. The fluid trainer is set up in the garage, with my go-fast (KHS 800) in it. This is a bike that was built new in December 2005. For some reason, KHS is not highly regarded but for the money you get a really good bike. The frames are made by United Engineering in Taiwan and the components come from all the usual places. The TIG welding on the frame is excellent. It has a Reynolds 853 (thin wall, very high strength) steel frame (only 3.1 lbs, within 1/2 a pound of a carbon set up) and lightweight running gear, other than the new-old-stock pebble grained Brooks B5N leather saddle with good old fashioned chromed rails. For trainer use, the regular rear wheel is replaced with one I built myself for practice and which sports a tire too worn down for serious road use.

Speaking of tires, a pair of Panaracer Pasela Tourguards came today. These are very light (240g) puncture resisting 32 mm tires with kevlar beads. They can be hard to find so when I saw them at an online outlet I jumped on a pair for back stock. I was running some Continental Ultra Gatorskins in 28 mm, and they are really nice, long wearing rubber. The TGs are just about 100% more comfortable to ride on and I have a long ride coming up.

The thing is, like many people, I hate using the trainer. There is no coasting, no sensation of speed, no bouncing over irregularities in the roadway. There is no feel to it, no soul. It is just work. I don't bicycle for the work of it but for the joy of it. The thing that it (a stationary trainer) does do is keep your leg muscles in shape for when circumstances will permit outdoor rides. Last week, I rode that darn trainer a couple of times in the garage, but tonight, I decided to ride laps around the block instead. Our block yields just a hair over 1 mile per lap and about 70' of climb which makes for a pretty good workout. I did my laps at 14 mph avg and then cleared off my son's exercise bench to do sit ups. (Or what passes for sit ups at my age and waistline) It was all pretty nice. The air is noticeably cooler now and the late long rays of sunlight slant golden across the lawns as I scoot by.

I was not eager to call it a day and head indoors, so I diddled in the yard to stretch the time. You can no longer see where I replaced the sod chunks which Alex and I cut out when we dug the hole to plant a maple tree. (The guy at Southern Homes and Gardens asked if I wanted to do it the "fast" way or the "right" way. Now if you put it that way.... Suffice it to say that a backhoe would have been faster but would have dug no wider nor deeper pits than we did with our shovels before roto-tilling 20 bags of soil "amendments" in BEFORE we ever set the trees in the ground) I measured the maple tree at 112" tall now. Similarly, the oak in the back yard is now 157" tall. The maple was 72" when planted and the oak 120" That's a bunch of growth since last February.

Finally, I wove errant tendrils of the star jasmine plants though the lattice that we nailed up to the back fence. There are 14 plants spanning the back yard, all named for patriarch or matriarch types, in the order that the books whose names are theirs appear in the Bible. So, if you start with Joshua, where do you end up? Extra points if you don't have to look it up :) Points deducted if you know already because you've seen them at our house!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One Day Too Short

After the long Labor Day weekend, it's a bummer to only have the usual 2 days this time around. Somehow I managed, never fear. Saturday's club ride turned out really well. Jackie and Joe started out with me from Millbrook and Jackie went as far as the Elmore store before turning around. She handled a nice pace on her rail trail style Giant. I gave her some Conti Slicks to try next time instead. Her semi-knobbies are 2.25" and these are 32 mm. I think she'll really notice a difference. The Contis were in my back stock from some tire sale months ago. They're all black (like her current tires) and I really prefer tan sidewalls anyway. Now I'll go hunt up some new back stock tires. Panaracer Pasela TG is my usual choice. They ride really nice, are light weight, and reasonably puncture proof. They do not last as long as the contis though. And one never knows what deals may be in the offing as the riding season winds down.

Joe and I kept on, and we went up to Lake Jordan and then wound our way back south. Our route included only 2 real climbs and this is reflected in our average pace. We were at the top of my range for a fendered, baggaged, fat tire bike. Joe coasted most of the way aboard his feather light Titanium Seven. I think he was coasting UP the hills too, but I can't be sure. When I am working hard on a climb, I don't tend to look around very much. We ended up with a shade over 40 miles, enjoyed lovely scenery and climbed between 800' & 900'. A couple of other riders left at the same time as we did, on a longer and faster ride. One was a new rider to the area. A very pleasant and recently graduated Air Force officer. Kathy was on a Gilmour TT bike and this is the first time I had ever seen one. I checked out their website to learn more about the brand. I also Googled Kathy and learned that she has had a pretty successful Tri career so far. For a little town, Montgomery sees a good share of very fine riders and other athletes, I must say.

The new term started today in Sunday School and I am teaching an adult class on the gospel of John. The course book seemed a little entry-level, so I asked for and got the okay to kick it up a notch. New Testament students often look at the book in the light of earlier Greek thinking, but it's important to remember that John (and Jesus of course) were Jewish. THAT was the perspective that I wanted to dig deeper into. We got through the 1st 4 verses of the book today. I suspect that the class is hoping I pick up the pace. The subject matter wanders from time to time. Today, I was asked for advice on where to get a young lady properly fit for and supplied with a decent quality bike. I probably did better explaining that than I did with the lesson.

After taking Alex and Amber out for lunch at a pizza buffet (their "reward" for getting up and coming to church with me), it was time to go on a Sunday afternoon ride. Only 1 person had said they would for sure be there, although there were several maybes. I was pleased that 4 other riders came by. Tom and Bob were up for a Prattville ride for the first time, and Jack popped in by surprise. Roger (not the club president, the other one) rounded out the group. We did the Indian Hills, Wadsworth Loop route, and while there are no longer any Indians there that I know of, there are hills. The Sun was blazing, and while the air temperature was only around 90, it felt a lot hotter. My back seemed to be cooking. We took a break at the 10 mile mark, and I realized that no one had gotten the "Put some shade out at the rest stop" memo. Here we are in the approx ride order: Roger, Jack, me, Bob, Tom. Yes that is UPHILL from this point.

The original idea was to ride 36 miles, but when Roger mentioned at about mile 15 that he needed to get back for some chores, 4 others (the rest of us) rapidly agreed that we had experienced all the biking fun we needed for today. So we ended up with 20 miles of good work. It was twice the climbing per mile as yesterday, so the average pace was a little slower. Still in the range though.

While Joe and I talked a little about recent political news, to my surprise no one struck up a conversation today. Not that I minded the absence. I don't foam at the mouth when discussing religion or politics as some do, and so I enjoy a civil exchange about them. Not an argument about them. I know people who love to argue ("debate" they call it) My dad was one of them. Count me out.

I've taken a little slack time with my miles over the past month, but I'm starting to get re invigorated. Not that I'm going to be racing or going cross country any time soon. But I like it when I like the riding more. I'm reading a book, "Bicycling Beyond The Divide" about an older guy mid-lifing it by trying to recreate a bike trip he did 20 years earlier. The book chronicles changes to places and people along the way, and of course changes he sees in himself as a result of the trip. I never took the trip 20 years ago, but cycling now helps me to see some of how I've changed too. Hopefully some of it is for the better!


Friday, September 5, 2008

Put a Wrench to it

Some days are made for riding, others for thinking about riding. Today I decided to set up the bike stand and wrench instead of ride. Alex, informed that this is HIS week to mow was doing his best Carl Edwards impression with the Ariens 21" (no self-propel on this baby) and Amber had settled into an Adirondack chair with a Cuehlo book to read. USPS brought a clutch of season ending clearance bin bargains, so I had plenty of material to work with. A new chain checker confirmed my belief that the Rambouillet was ready for some new links. I used a chain tool for the first time and got plenty of grease on my fingers. Along with shortening the new chain to the proper length, I cleaned off the now exposed parts of the drive train which the chain usually obscures. After that, grippier brake pads went on the Saluki, properly spaced, toed and tightened. Both bikes rode well in after repair testing.

I wasn't all excited about a ride on Weds either, but a pair of closeout special Zoic Black Market bike shorts showed up. I tried them on and they fit really well, so what the heck, why not go for a ride? I pedalled down town and did hill repeats up Gin Shop Hill. It was a push to make it home by dark, but I did and was glad for the workout afterwards. Alex was asleep when the post office came by, so I'll have to go there myself tomorrow and pick up the package from Italy with an eBay bargain vintage wool jersey. Too bad! I would have worn it on the club ride tomorrow. Not sure where I'm riding. I'll scan the radar when I get up and decide. So far, no one has taken me up on an offer to ride the hillier Elmore County. I know of a few riding the rollers in Pintlala, and may go there if I get no takers.

And which bike to take?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

Three days off from work is, well, a three day rest from the office. It wasn't super restful though. On Saturday, our bike club held it's annual supported century ride. This is an excellent event, and provides funding for the club activities including public awareness, helmet giveaways to kids, and other things we do to promote cycling. I've ridden the event before, but for the last several years, I've worked on the crew.

Each rest stop is themed. One is done in all polka dots, and is placed just after the steepest climb of the ride. One is margarita themed, with grass skirts and coconuts. Ours was Tour de Rest Stop. We wore yellow, had a model of the Eiffel Tower and some other goodies. What the riders liked best about our stop: Plenty of chairs set up under the shade, towels soaked in ice cold water, and bike racks to park their rides while they refreshed. I pulled an all day shift, and so did some others. We also had help early to set up from a first shift crew, and to take down from a 2d shift group. Plenty of teamwork and it was a pleasure, except for 10 hours of high heat and humidity, and the spider bite on my leg. My family even came out and pitched in on the 1st shift, including enthusiastically greeting the riders as they approached our location! How cool is that?

Sunday, I rode with one other club member who posted a plaintive, "Doesn't anbody ride 13 -15 mph anymore?" You're talking MY language there! We had a great ride, and a stiff Gustav related headwind provided a good workout. The weather Monday was out of kilter, so I didn't ride. There were other little jobs to do, and I puttered around, while Alex and Amber threw a Labor Day BBQ for their freinds. I got to eat some too, and it was mighty good. I rode around our neighborhood a couple of times anyway.

Hopefully the weather this weekend will permit a longer enjoyably paced excursion.

Blog Archive

The Pace Line